Back to school 10 #must-read safety tips

Some recently published statistics amazed me. Did you know that:

  • Most pedestrian traffic injuries happen to 5 to 9 yo kids in mid-block crossings and 10 to 14 yo at intersections? 
  • Until children are about 8 yo, it is actually difficult for them to assess whether a vehicle is moving or not?
  • The chances of a child on foot surviving being hit by a car that is going 30 km/h is 90%, but if that car is driving 50 km/h that chance of survival drops to 10%?
  • School start is a high risk period for accidents as both drivers and kids re-adjust to each other’s increased presence on the streets.

Here are 10 #must read tips to help keep kids safe:

  1. Give your kids some information about road accidents. Unless your kids have seen TV shows about it, most would have no understanding of accidents entail. Showing them a few photos of the damage that cars sustain is often helpful to get them to realize how dangerous accidents can be. Just do a search and select a few photos ahead of time as otherwise some photos may be too scary.
  2. Dress your kids to be easily seen. When walking and biking, wear high visibility clothing and back pack, ideally with reflective elements to it, especially in rain or snow. 
  3. Teach your kids defensive walking. “Always look left and right and then left again before crossing a street, and make eye contact with drivers so you know they’ve seen you.” Kids do learn the rules eventually, the dangers are not over. Kids who are proud to know the rules incorrectly assume that everyone always follows them! Help them understand that sometimes drivers make mistakes or can’t see them easily – so it’s not safe to take it for granted that the car will stop at a light, it’s better to wait until it’s clearly safe to cross. Also teach them not to stand too close to a corner especially on busy intersections. 
  4. Use crosswalks whenever possible. When walking or cycling with your kids to and from school, map out a route that has the least amount of street crossings, and/or the most pedestrian crossing lights or marked crosswalks.
  5. Tech gadgets interfere with safety. Many teens often wear head phones over both ears and/or text and walk – which makes them unable to notice and respond to danger. Get them to unplug and leave gadgets in backpacks when walking or cycling to and from school so you can focus on the road and see, hear and respond safely. (Tip: The easiest way to do that is to get them to walk/cycle in a group – see next paragraph.) 
  6. Safety in numbers. If you’re not walking your child to school, find a friend for them to walk with. If you have not heard about these, look into creating a walking bus for your neighborhood – this is a great site with instructions on why and how to do it.
  7. When biking – do it right! Use hand signals when riding a bike and always wear a properly fitted CSA approved bike helmet when riding…it’s safer – and it’s the law.
  8. What’s my address? Make sure younger children know at least one parent’s phone number and their home address. Also get set up with an emergency record and network system – for example great new free services such as ePACT help you quickly create your family’s online emergency record. Just go to  https://beta.epactnetwork.com/ and start a free account. It takes minutes to enter the information that matters – contact numbers and medical needs. Then you can link to relatives, friends and organizations (like schools and sports teams). This can support you every day and is life saving in a crisis.
  9. Set up a secret password – and they are not to go in a car or with someone who doesn’t know the password.
  10. Check-in after school. If you’re not home when your child gets back from school, have them check in with you. How old before they can do that? Usually depends on how big is your city and how far away you are from the school. Most children are comfortable doing so after they turn 12yo, but increasingly many parents are not! Remember the ruckus caused by a New York mom who lets her 9 yo ride the subway alone… That mom – Leonore Skenazy – became a celebrity afterwards, launching a site, a book and even a TV show on “free range kids” – how to raise safe self-reliant children.

Finally – drivers: Slow down and drop the mobile devices. Please do this yourself and tell at least seven others – a small gesture of random act of kindness that can save lives: 

  • The posted speed limit in school zones is 30 km/h. In good weather, it takes a vehicle 13 metres to come to a complete stop when driving at 30 km/h, but it takes 27 metres – more than double that distance – when driving at 50 km/h. For the record – I find both numbers scary… 13 meters at 30km/hr is less than 2 seconds to react and to stop! 
  • Using a mobile device while driving is like driving drunk! The law is catching up and in many jurisdictions it’s now finally illegal for drivers to hold, operate, communicate or watch the screen of a hand-held electronic communication device, including sending or receiving text messages or electronic e-mail on any type. The evidence is multiplying that even hands free devices are super distracting – there is a four- to six-fold higher risk of collisions when talking on a cellphone, and a 23 times (yikes!) increased risk of crashes or near-crashes while reading and sending text messages.

Remember that the key with kids is repetition as for them something a few months ago is a very distant memory, so review these rules before Halloween (sadly another prime time for kids vs vehicle accidents).

Alexandra T. Greenhill, MD, mother of three CEO and Co-founder myBestHelper

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